Physics-minded crows bring Aesop’s fable to life
Eureka! Like Archimedes in his bath, crows know how to displace water, showing that Aesop’s fable The Crow and the Pitcher isn’t purely fictional.
To see if New Caledonian crows could handle some of the basic principles of volume displacement, Sarah Jelbert at the University of Auckland in New Zealand and her colleagues placed scraps of meat just out of a crow’s reach, floating in a series of tubes that were part-filled with water. Objects potentially useful for bringing up the water level, like stones or heavy rubber erasers, were left nearby.
The crows successfully figured out that heavy and solid objects would help them get a treat faster. They also preferred to drop objects in tubes where they could access a reward more easily, picking out tubes with higher water levels and choosing tubes of water over sand-filled ones.